We did it! Upholstery project

Sometimes, when I speak to a book club, they’re kind enough to give me a little gift–usually it’s a nice aromatherapy candle, note cards, chocolate (always a winner)like that. But when I spoke to my friend Martha’s book club in Atlanta a couple weeks ago, she gave me the best book club bribe/gift ever. An antique upholstered bench. Martha assured me that if I didn’t take the bench, which was a family piece, she was going to have it hauled off to Goodwill. Couldn’t let that happen now, could I? If you look past the dirty, rotting upholstery fabric and the old, alligatored black varnish on the wood frame, she’s an adorable little bench, with her sexy curved legs and sweet scalloped apron. And a useful size, to boot.
The bench rode around in the back of my car until this past weekend. Finally, Saturday, I decided to tackle that sucker. I found a nice Robert Allen cream twill fabric on sale at Hancock’s and grabbed a yard-and-a-half of it–which was probably double what I needed, and also purchased some (on sale) gimp braid as trimming. I deconstructed the upholstery, removing the filthy old fabric on top, the equally filthy padding (one layer of which consisted of straw!) and the also rotting scrim on the underside of the top. I set the bench up outside and using Formby’s Refinisher and three different grades of steel wool, I stripped off the old blackened varnish. In its place, I rubbed in a coat of Briwax in a finish color called Tudor. And then came the hard part.
Upholstery. Ugh! I’ve stapled my share of dining room seat cushions in the past, but the bench, with its padded top, was a much bigger challenge than it seemed like it should be.

I finally had to call in the heavy guns–i.e. Mr. Mary Kay. We managed to replace the scrim with some muslin I had in my fabric stash, and then we covered the old padding with more of the same muslin, stapling everything in place with the electric staple gun. On to the upholstered top. We measured. I cut. We measured, I trimmed.We stapled, and then unstapled. The corners of the bench nearly undid us. Turns out we probably should have put some additional batting in there. Finally, I made the decision it was “good enough for government work.” As a final touch, I hot-glued a ribbon of gimp braid to cover up the staples.

The finished product isn’t exactly professional quality. I may still attempt to make a fitted slipcover to protect that snowy linen top. Here she is auditioning for a spot in the sun-room, where I like to sit and write on sunny days–like today.

But in the meantime, it’s done! And from now on, I’ll be expecting antique furniture hand-outs at all my book club appearances.

10 thoughts on “We did it! Upholstery project”

  1. As someone who spent the morning looking at a lot of ugly ottomans, I applaud your good fortune and good work. It's lovely.

  2. If you come speak to my book club I will load your whole trunk up with junky furniture! (If that's not a reason to come to NY, I don't know what is.) The new upholstery is a vast improvement.

  3. Stewart and I are thrilled to see it looking so good. What great vision you had to transform that worn-out bench into an adorable ottoman! And thanks for the evening — we all had a great time.

  4. I had a red buffalo checked sofa just like that and LOVED it and finally slipcovered it in a smaller red check but I like those big checks best. Made my heart skip a beat!

    Good looking ottoman bench. You've given me confidence to tackle a rocking chair I found in a barn.

  5. Beautiful. I redid a old vanity this past summer (first time ever) and quite anxious to find more pieces to redo. Of course, must be able to buy cheap.

  6. Love it! Perhaps I could insist on this type of hostess gift whenever I have people over! (wine and chocolate is always a good back up plan) 🙂

  7. I love the little bench, I saw one at good will in our northern Indiana town. I thought it was too much, but I should have bought it. The company I worked for closed down, and I am thinking of ways to make money. I am sanding and repainting a night stand with a secret jewelry hiding place, We picked up about 20 of the clear crystal vintage knobs @ Habitat for 15.00, I think I am going to put at least 3 of them to good use. I love love love your blog. You do just the kind of things my best friend and me love to do..thanks for your insperation..

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